Keyword research is one of the most important steps when laying the foundations of your SEO campaign. In fact, keywords can make or break your campaign, because they influence the type of traffic you’ll get from SEO. The end goal of SEO is to bring your business more leads or sales, which is why you need to choose keywords that bring in the right audience. Now that might sound like a lot of pressure, but fear not - in this article we’ll cover how to find the right keywords for SEO, step by step.
What is keyword research?
In short, keyword research is the process of finding and evaluating search queries that people type into search engines. Identifying the right search queries to target is a crucial part of the process, to ensure you’re putting resources where they mater. SEO is all about having an informed strategy!
Search engine optimisation will get you more traffic. Ranking for the right keywords ensures it's the right kind of traffic.
The rundown: how to find the right keywords for SEO
So, how do you find the right keywords for your SEO campaign? From keyword difficulty to search volume, different types of keywords and search intent, there are many factors at play.
Let’s start with the basics: two important variants to consider are keyword difficulty and search volume.
Keyword difficulty is the estimated difficulty to rank in Google’s organic results for a specific search query. Now, it’s no secret SEO is a competitive space, and those who play the long game tend to come out on top. For some extremely competitive keywords, it could take years to claim that top spot! Most businesses probably don’t want to put all their eggs in one basket and wait that long. While it’s good to keep your eyes on the prize for the ultimate keyword you want to rank for, set some easier, short-term goals as well.
Search volume is key when it comes to keyword research. At the end of the day, what good is it to rank for a query that nobody is using? The end goal is traffic, so you should choose keywords that get searched regularly.
Many SEO tools can give you an estimated monthly search volume. Usually, search volume is defined with the total number of searches made in the previous 12 months, expressed as a monthly average. Note that some keywords can be very seasonal, too! Think air conditioning or Christmas lights, for example.
Short tail/head keywords and long-tail keywords
Generally speaking, head keywords are broad with high search volumes and competition. Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, are more specific, typically consisting of three or more words.
Head keywords are often defined by your industry or market segment. At their most basic level, these could be “skincare” for a skincare brand, or “mortgage broker” for a mortgage broker.
Head keywords can also be keywords that your target audience uses to look for information within a vertical. For example, “natural skincare”, or “mortgage broker Brisbane”.
Long-tail keywords are often informational, such as “natural skincare routine for oily skin” or “how to get a mortgage in Australia”. What sets long-tail keywords apart from your main keywords is lower search volume. While they might not bring in hordes of visitors, they are more targeted and easier to rank for.
Trending keywords and evergreen keywords
Your content strategy should include a healthy mix of trending and evergreen content.
Content based on trending keywords is topical and addresses current issues. A good example is the many blog posts that popped up to help businesses wade through the Covid-19 restrictions. A great way to identify trending searches is Google Trends. Keeping up with the latest trends of online search behaviour and emerging keywords is great for staying ahead of the competition.
That said, evergreen content is, as the name suggests, timeless and therefore incredibly valuable. One great blog post that ranks on page 1 could bring you search traffic for years to come!
Choosing keywords that define your product or service is one of the best ways to make sure your traffic is relevant. For example, if you have an online store specialising in plus-sized clothing, you need to make sure the word “plus-sized” is prevalent throughout your content. Or, if you’re a plumber mainly wanting commercial jobs, you need to write content that targets the commercial customers’ questions.
We love geo-targeted keywords because they tend to come with strong buyer intent. What kind of a person types “physio Brisbane” or “physio near me” into Google? Probably someone who’s looking to get the help of a physio ASAP!
The buyers' cycle
When it comes to the buyers’ cycle, many different versions exist. In its simplest form, the buyer cycle consists of three stages:
By investigating search intent, we can target consumers who are at different stages of the buying cycle based on the keywords they use. The approach here will be somewhat different for product and service-based businesses, but here's a basic example:
- A person making a very generic search is typically at the awareness stage of the buyer cycle. For example, they may want to get more fit and start thinking about buying a fresh pair of running shoes soon. It’s pretty much the equivalent of going browsing at the shopping centre!
- At the consideration stage of the buyer cycle, people start comparing the pros and cons of different products. They may go browse some more online stores to look at product descriptions, shipping and returns information, and more. They may also make an informational search, such as “best women’s running shoes”.
- At the purchase stage of the buyer cycle, people tend to have made up their mind and search directly for the product or service they want to buy. In the case of a specific model of running shoes, several competitors will likely still appear. This is where it helps if the person has come across your brand previously – they already know and trust you!
How to find the right keywords for SEO: step-by-step process
1. Create a broad keyword list
The first step is to create a long list of keywords that you’ll then start narrowing down. We recommend starting with a hundred or so. Compile your initial list into an Excel spreadsheet or Word document where you can add other relevant information. At this stage, don’t worry about the competition!
Some paid tools you could use for this are SEMrush and Ahrefs. For a free but somewhat limited tool, try Ubersuggest or even Answer the Public. Google suggest (the suggestions that come up when you start typing into Google) are also an easy option for uncovering ideas for keywords.
2. Include different types of keywords
Your SEO strategy should target a wide range of different types of keywords, as detailed before. Not only does this bring different kinds of users to your site, but it also introduces your brand to them early on in their research process, building trust.
3. Find the low-hanging fruit
We always say it, SEO takes time. That’s why it’s wise to identify the low-hanging fruit to sustain yourself until the main event! Include some low-competition keywords in your strategy to start growing your rankings and traffic.
4. Look at search volume
As discussed before, your keywords should have a mix of high and low search volumes because each has its benefits. However, there’s no point ranking for keywords that have absolutely no search volume whatsoever. If a phrase doesn’t get searched at all, don’t waste your time.
5. Assess search intent
Put yourself in the shoes of your customer. Ask yourself, ‘If I wanted XYZ, what would I type into Google?’ You could also ask your actual customers the same question!
Identifying the search intent helps you assess the earning potential of keywords, too. Ask yourself questions such as:
- Will this keyword make me money?
- Is it something a potential customer would use?
- Does it have anything to do with my products/services?
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If you’re running a Google Ads campaign, you already have a goldmine of data at your fingertips! The searches people make before clicking on your ads are a great place to start. You can also use the Google Keyword Planner in your Google Ads account to find keywords. Although intended for planning ad campaigns, it works great for SEO keyword research too!
With this crash course on how to find the right keywords for SEO, you can start compiling a list to kick off your campaign with. And the next steps, you ask…? Writing some targeted SEO content! But remember – SEO is much more than content; your site also needs to be technically sound with a healthy backlink profile.
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